Deanna: I joined the Air Force straight from High School in 1991 following the tradition set by both of my brothers and my father. I had originally joined as Signals Operator but remustered to become an Airborne Electronics Analyst on the P-3C Orion in the early 2000’s. Flying was hands-down the best part of my career!!
Before taking a ground posting, I had been working in training and training development so when I was advised of a civilian training management role in late 2011, I applied but was not successful.
I sought feedback from the HR department of the company to ensure I knew what to do to expand my skills so they were more compatible with what companies wanted. I found some budgeting training and coaching/mentoring training online and also researched resumes, cover letters and interview techniques.
I attended a transition seminar so I could see what was available to help start to plan my departure from the military. This time and research allowed me to see that a lot of the skill-sets I had received in the military were invaluable to civilian companies. At first, I hadn’t looked much past the formal certificates I had received and my “trade training” and wondered what I could actually do but there was so much more than that – resilience, team work, innovation – soft skills that were gained over my career are extremely marketable in civilian life – I just had to learn to apply them in a way that suited a company.
I found out the role I applied for in 2011 became vacant again in 2012 so I reapplied this time with a much better resume and cover letter and went on to nail the interview.
I moved from Adelaide to Perth to commence the role in Oct 2012 and then finally discharged in Jan 2013 (I took LWOP as a back-up plan in case things didn’t work out). I have since worked in the Training Management field in another company and am currently a Training Contract Manager for ASC Pty Ltd.
Plan – start working on your discharge plan early on to give you time to attend seminars, complete training, decide where you will live etc. Understand your entitlements and use them all!
Network – While there are the traditional job seeker websites, 2 of the 3 civilian roles I have been employed in came to me via my network. Expand your network at every opportunity (I even introduced myself to someone in Day Surgery!!) and let people know you are looking. You may meet ex-military contacts who will be able to help you learn from their transition experience.
Get a Mentor – The first thing I did when arriving in Perth was seek out a female mentor to assist with my transition. We met once a month and she was invaluable in supporting me learning new techniques to become a manager in a civilian company versus using my rank to get things done. Again, I used my network to find a mentor.
Keep in Touch – The friends you made in the military are life-long friends. They will always be there no matter the circumstances – I am still in daily contact with some of the crew I flew with.
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